Private Golf: The Front 10: Off the Green
FIRST IN FLIGHT
Mountain Air Country Club (800.247.7791, www.mountainaircc.com) in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is known for white-water rafting, snow sports, and its 2,875-foot private airstrip. "Unlike a commercial airport, we rarely have more than 25 or 30 planes at any one time," says president and CEO Randy Banks. "Members probably get more disturbed by the lawn mowers on the golf course." Adds member and homeowner Pete Warhurst: "I fly my single-engine Pilatus from Florida, and I can be watching the sunset from my deck three minutes after I land."
Hualalai (808.325.8500, www.hualalairesort.com) features a members-only, Tom Weiskopf–designed golf course that cuts through the lava flows on the Big Island of Hawaii’s Kona-Kohala Coast. Still, the main attractions at this Four Seasons community are the pools and the Pacific Ocean. The adjacent Four Seasons resort has five pools, including King’s Pond, a man-made, oceanfront lagoon carved out of lava rock, where members and hotel guests can snorkel among spotted eagle rays. At the members-only Canoe Club, Hawaiian watermen (known as Alaka‘i Nalu) offer surfing and paddling lessons.
The golf course at Palmetto Bluff (843.757.3333, www.palmetto-bluff.com), a community encompassing more than 20,000 acres in South Carolina’s Low Country, is interlaced with pine, oak, and palmetto trees and a network of creeks and marshes. "Hole 10 is challenging," says director of golf Charlie Kent, "because the second shot requires a carry over a creek that has 7- to 9-foot tide changes twice a day." During low tide, golfers might spot some of the bottlenose dolphins that swim in from the Intracoastal Waterway to strand feed (a ritual in which the animals pursue fish onto the shore) along the creek’s banks. Palmetto Bluff offers a variety of outdoor excursions—on horseback, by foot, in kayaks, on bicycles—to spot the dolphins and other local wildlife. "We have equestrian, bike, walking, and water trails that connect everything," says Jim Mozley, president and CEO of Palmetto Bluff. "The shortest way anywhere is by trail." This June, the community began construction of a 173-acre equestrian center that will include a covered arena and a cross-country practice area.
Set in the heart of wine country, the Jack Nicklaus–designed course at Mayacama (707.569.2900, www.mayacama.com) offers a perk that is appropriate to its location. "Underneath the clubhouse, the wine cave daylights onto the first tee, so you can grab a glass before or after you play," says Jonathan Wilhelm, managing partner of this community in Sonoma County, Calif. "Traditionally, whoever loses the round provides the wine." Because members of Mayacama include vintners from Napa Valley and Sonoma, those wines are not your garden varietals. In fact, some of the members’ wineries have attained cult status, and each of the club’s 31 vintner members donates a barrel of wine per year. The clubhouse, which is outfitted with private wine lockers, offers a selection of about 200 local vintages, and members receive invitations to barrel tastings and dinners at local estates.
Bordered by Bridger-Teton National Forest, the Snake River Sporting Club (888.434.7772, www.snakeriversportingclub.com) in Jackson Hole, Wyo., has a helicopter pad to facilitate backcountry heli-skiing trips to the region’s 300,000 acres of recreational terrain. Members also can speed downhill at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or cross-country ski on Snake River’s Nordic Track, which skirts the back nine of the club’s Tom Weiskopf–designed golf course. Other outdoor excursions include rock climbing, dogsledding, and moonlit float trips down the property’s 6.5 miles of river. Even the golf course at Snake River is an adventurer’s paradise. "Hole 12 is a par 3 that’s idyllic," notes general manager Neal Vohr, "because it’s bordered by a beaver pond where members can canoe and fish."
FOR THE BIRDS
"If you play the 12th hole in the late afternoon, you’re likely to see wild turkeys walking the fairway," says Jim Chaffin of Chaffin/Light Associates, one of the developers of Spring Island (843.987.2200, www.springisland.com) in South Carolina. The community’s course, designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, weaves though an ancient maritime forest on this 3,000-acre private island, and the ruins of a Civil War–era home come into view on the back nine. In addition to golf, members also enjoy freshwater and saltwater fishing, 36 miles of riding trails, kayak trips, nighttime owl prowls, and a quail-hunting club. "During the season, four members hunt per day," says Troy Shaver, a Spring Island Hunt Club member since its 1996 inception, "and some donate their quail to the outdoor cookouts we have throughout the year."